Hebrews 3-4

Why is all this talk about rest sandwiched between assertions that Jesus is the Ultimate Priest?

“Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.” (3:1)

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet He did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” ‭(4:15-16‬)

Between these verses is a lot of confusing verses about resting “today” and not getting disqualified like “they” did. I would be lying if I said I knew exactly what all this meant, but I can share a speculation.

The redemptive Salvation of Jesus, our Great High Priest, has made obedience personal. He is softening our hearts by His Spirit. He was obedient to God and showed us this most excellent way. Through faith, we can follow in His powerful way. But unbelief paralyzes us and worse: wears us out with tireless strife.

What if I’m not accepted by God? What if there’s still something I need to do? Other religions have rituals, should I do something like that? Nothing’s free, I’ve got to figure out what my contribution is. Being a human is hard and confusing, God doesn’t get that. Am I supposed to be tithing more? Serving my church more? What does He want from me?? What about myself and my life? Where will I live, work, what will I eat, wear, do? Does God see me? Does He care? Does He fight for me? Am I alone?

How can I know?

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (‭4:12‬)

He is near and powerful. He has accomplished Salvation for us and granted us rest. He relates to us, knows us, understands us, communicates with us and for us. 

There are a lot of levels on which we need rest. Ask Jesus where He can grant you His rest today. And have faith He can bring it. 

-Bethany 

Hebrews 1-2

The author of Hebrews remains a mystery. Whoever it is, though, is encouraging the recipients of this letter to remain in Christ and not return to Judaism.

I love the Psalm they quoted in chapter one:

“Lord, in the beginning you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. Even they will perish, but you remain forever. They will wear out like old clothing…but you are always the same; you will never grow old.” 1:11, 12

Chapter two ends with the reminder that Christ became like us and experienced what we experienced. “Since he himself has gone through suffering and temptation, he is able to help us when we are being tempted.” 

Jesus, while being completely man and completely God, experienced suffering and death. He went through adolescence. He had parents. He got jobs, maybe he lost jobs. He had trouble sleeping. If you read any of his interactions with the disciples, you realize that even without having his own kids, he’s the most relatable parent in the world (read: needs endless patience, repeats himself a lot and is rarely obeyed in full). He mourned deaths. He felt left out. He knows what life feels like and he’s with us. This convicted me this morning. If I am to be Christ-like, shouldn’t I imitate this reliability? 

Am I stepping into people’s circumstances with them?

Am I someone people can count on?

Am I using my experiences, good and bad, to help people?

With all this in mind, I am not the answer to people’s problems. But, I believe I have the answer. And I also feel called to relate to people the way God relates to me. To be an available presence, to practice hospitality, to give grace, to listen, to ask and to empathize.

 

-Carly

 

Hebrews Intro

Did you hope to read the Bible more this year? The end of January is the biggest drop off in New Year’s resolutions.

Tomorrow, we start the book of Hebrews. Invite a friend to read along with you (accountability is a game changer in habit-keeping!) and sign up to receive our daily reading prompts.

Hebrews is a great faith-booster, encourager and exhorter. Check out this video to become more familiar with it before we start.

Take today to catch up on reading, attend a Sunday gathering at your church and maybe pray for the world, our leaders and God’s people.

 

 

 

 

 

Joshua 23-24

“But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” (24:15‬)

Faithfulness has a lot to do with remembering. The leaders of Israel would forever be setting up reminders of the LORD’s power on their behalf. This was their number one defense against backsliding. 

The temptation to continue in old family traditions (serving the gods beyond the Euphrates) and the temptation to do what the culture and people around you are doing (serving the gods of the Amorites) still remains today. As was their best defense then, our best defense now is remembering the powerful faithfulness of our God. 

“Israel served the LORD throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had experienced everything the LORD had done for Israel.” (24:31‬)

Having leaders that remember their own experiences with God are the best. When this generation dies out, Israel spirals into the times of the judges and “everyone does what is right in their own eyes”. It is an age-old problem, trying to raise the next generation to love and serve God. People need to see Him for themselves. Do they see Him in you? Are you living proof of His powerful faithfulness? Do you share your experiences with God with people and keep track of your own stories of His power? 

Every day is a choice. Choose this day who you will serve. Family tradition? Cultural norms? The God of Abraham is powerful. Do you testify about Him? Do you actively serve Him? Today is a choice and here, it’s all laid out. What will it be?

-Bethany 

Joshua 21-22

Sometimes I need to remember that the story’s not finished.

“Not a single one of all the good promises the Lord had given to the family of Israel was left unfulfilled; everything he had spoken came true.” 21:45 

If you’ve been reading along with us, this is huge! We’ve read as the Israelites have struggled in their relationship with God, waited on his promises and sometimes disobediently steered away from his leadership. It’s been a long, relatable ride.

And now, finally, God proved himself faithful in fulfilling every promise he made to Israel, in his own perfect timing. But it took a really long time. There were set backs, there were detours in the journey, trials, long days, change of plans, change of leaders, deaths, births, sicknesses, improvisations, failures and successes. Sound familiar? That’s the journey of following and obeying God.

What promise are you waiting for? I asked myself this today and the first thing that popped into my mind was contentment in him. He’s promised me that. But the journey’s long. There are things I need to give over to him, areas I need to grow in trust and lots of setbacks. He’s still writing that part of my story. He’s still good, even when he hasn’t instantly granted me something. When anxiety rears it’s head, I have a choice. Will I abandon the God leading me out of slavery, through the wilderness, into the Promised Land? 

If you are waiting for God to fulfill a promise, stay faithful. “..be very careful to obey all the commands and the instructions that Moses gave you. Love the Lord your God, walk in all his ways, obey his commandments, hold firmly to him, and serve him with all your heart and all your soul.” 22:5

 

-Carly

Joshua 19-20

“Any of the Israelites or any foreigner residing among them who killed someone accidentally could flee to these designated cities and not be killed by the avenger of blood prior to standing trial before the assembly.” (20:9‬)

Our lives are terribly important to the LORD. All our lives. In most remote tribes, to this day, in the Amazon, Papua New Guinea, etc. vengeance is taken quickly and drastically. No exceptions for accidents, just vicious cycles of revenge. 

The LORD has repeatedly stated that it’s important to keep the land free of innocent blood. It will negatively effect everyone. The idea of these cities of refuge are a holding place, a safe place, to ensure truth is found and justice is done.

In our own lives we can viciously attack each other, even if someone offends us by accident. In fact, this year, social media has (even more so) become a place of hasty attack. It’s verbal, cyber, tribal warfare out there and those who believe they have found a safe place to say something, are quickly proven wrong. I’d say this has negatively affected everyone.

How can we find God’s heart for patience, justice and reconciliation? How can we, ourselves, become safe places or cities of refuge? James says we are to be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”

Wait. Seek to understand. Don’t blindly continue the fight, but do the patient work of discovering people’s hearts and motives. And, for the love, remember vengeance is the LORD’s.

In all this sorting of what’s what and who gets to live where, be a city of refuge. They are close to the Father’s heart.

-Bethany 

Joshua 17-18

It jumped out to me that five women demanded an inheritance from the leaders. God had commanded Moses to do so, but I know culturally at that point it didn’t usually happen. My commentary agreed:

“Although women did not traditionally inherit property in Israelite society, Moses put justice ahead of tradition and gave these five women the land they deserved (see Numbers 27:1-11). In fact, God told Moses to add a law that would help other women in similar circumstances inherit property as well. Joshua was now carrying out this law. It is easy to refuse to honor a reasonable request because ‘things have never been done that way before’. But, like Moses and Joshua, it is best to look carefully at the purpose of the law and the merits of each case before deciding.” (NLT commentary pg. 336)

Moses put justice ahead of tradition. This chapter is such a reminder to me that following God isn’t just memorizing a bunch of rules. God’s love breaks cultural barriers, rules and norms.

I have religious and lazy tendencies. It’s easier for me to just establish a set of rules and expect them to be followed by people. But that doesn’t leave room for God’s love to move. Here are a few ways I’ve found to be helpful in gaining godly discernment:

Familiarize yourself with the Proverbs. On days like today, where my Bible reading offers more fact stating than narrative, I’ll often flip to the book of Proverbs and read a chapter or two.

Look for the gospel. Look for the gospel in your daily experiences, in books you read, in parts of the Bible you don’t expect it, and in your history. Developing a “gospel lens” trains you to look at situations and people the way God does.

Pray and consult with God. Later in chapter 18, Joshua casts sacred lots in the presence of God to help make decisions. Do we seek his input when we make decisions?

And of course, staying consistent in reading the Bible. I am constantly learning and repositioning my heart towards God whenever I’m in the Word. It’s the ultimate guide, manual, story-teller and compass that our lives need.

 

-Carly